In 2000, Dr. Terry Wahls, MD, a clinical professor at the University of Iowa Carver College Of Medicine, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. By 2003 the disease had transitioned to secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. With a strong desire to forestall the eventual fate of being bedridden from her disease, she spent countless hours researching the latest scientific articles on multiple sclerosis, but became frustrated to learn that most of the drugs being tested for MS were years away from FDA approval.
It then occurred to her to search for vitamins and supplements that aid in slowing progressive brain disorders. After compiling a list, she started taking these ‘brain health’ nutrients and found that, indeed, the quickness of the progression slowed. However, she was still in decline. She continued her search, which included delving into Functional Medicine, and finally landed on the idea of getting her nutrients from food rather than vitamins and supplements.
Taking what she’d learned from medical literature, Functional Medicine, and the Hunter-Gatherer diet, she created her own food plan. While developing the food plan, she learned about neuromuscular electrical stimulation—a technique used for muscle strengthening, maintenance of muscle mass and strength, and selective muscle retraining. She tried it on herself and found that the combination of diet and muscle stimulation improved her condition greatly. In 2007 she started The Wahls Protocol™ and within a year she was able to walk without assistance and complete an 18-mile bicycle tour.
In her book, The Wahls Protocol, she describes the protocol in detail and shares how it helped her reverse many of her symptoms and return to a full, healthy life. She provides useful information on topics such as, Conventional Medicine’s take on autoimmunity versus Functional Medicine’s, reducing your toxic load, exercising and electricity, and stress management.
However, the key to Dr. Wahls’ protocol is following the paleo-based diet she prescribes, which according to her is “designed to maximize the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and essential fats that your brain and mitochondria need to thrive . . .” The diet eliminates grains, dairy and legumes, which are relatively new to the human diet, introduced 10,000 and 8,000 years ago respectively, and incorporates the foods that most closely resemble that of the hunter-gatherer diet, including meats, vegetables and berries. Research shows that a diet high in starches and sugars (i.e., grains, legumes and dairy) disturbs the healthy flora in the gut, eventually leading to many kinds of chronic conditions. Conversely, diets high in healthy fats and nutrients help to restore the gut flora and act as an anti-inflammatory.
Although there are several types of paleo-based diets you could follow, for anyone suffering from a debilitating autoimmune disease, the Wahls’ protocol may be one of the best to adhere to. From leafy greens and colorful fruits and vegetables to organic, grass-fed beef and wild-caught fish, she lists the most nutrient-rich foods you need to be eating to maximize your intake of vitamins and minerals, and explains in detail why these foods are so important for restoring your health.
If you’re interested in implementing this diet, speak with a physician that acknowledges the importance of eating the proper foods that help you reach and maintain overall health.
Wahl’s, MD, Dr. Terry. <http://terrywahls.com/about/>
Lake, DA. “Neuromuscular electrical stimulation. An overview and its application in the treatment of sports injuries.” Department of Physical Therapy, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts.; PubMed.gov. 13 May 1992.
Wahls, MD, Terry with Adamson, Eve. The Wahls Protocol. New York: Penguin, 2014. Print.